Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Book Review | My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff.

"At twenty-three, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J.D. Salinger. She spends her days in the plush, wood-panelled agency, where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and old-time agents doze at their desks after martini lunches, and at night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Brooklyn apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend. Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personality and struggling to trust her own artistic sense, Joanna is given the task of answering Salinger's voluminous fan mail. But as she reads the candid, heart-wrenching letters from his readers around the world, she finds herself unable to type out the agency's decades-old form response. Instead, drawn inexorably into the emotional world of Salinger's devotees, she abandons the template and begins writing back.

Poignant, keenly observed and irresistibly funny, My Salinger Year is a memoir about literary New York in the late 1990's, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing, where a young woman finds herself swept into one of the last great figures of the century. Above all, it is the coming-of-age story of a talented writer and a testament to the universal power of books to shape our lives." (synopsis from (x).

I haven't really ever reviewed a non-fiction book before, so you'll have to forgive me if it isn't too great.

We are introduced to Joanna Rakoff, circa 1996. She has just left London, and consequently graduate school, to try it out in the real world. She finds herself in New York City, with a socialist boyfriend and a new-found job at a literary agency. But this agency isn't like any other - they're the agency that looks after J.D. Salinger. This is the story of Ms Rakoff's year at the Agency.

One thing I've really been trying to do more this year is read non-fiction. Like with most people, I'm sure, when I think of genre, I think 'boring.' I'm happy to say that this is one book that did not bore me. In fact, I really enjoyed it.

This is a really shallow thing to start off with, but the cover is just gorgeous. It's bright, eye-catching, and it screams New York. I adore it.

Another thing: the voice was good. It gave off an introspective-vibe, and wasn't afraid to be a little self-depricative. There was humour and humbleness, and it was a real breeze to read. Unsurprisingly, because of this, it was also quite well-written.

I found that the pacing was really good. It kept the reader well-invested in the story. One thing I was worried about, coming into it, was that it really had the capacity to get caught up in the minor details, and wallow in them. My Salinger Year didn't do this at all. It was the perfect length. It didn't dwell on too much, but it didn't rush through the year either.

I also really loved how Ms Rakoff wrote about New York. It was lovely. It was almost a character in itself, and most certainly made me want to go back.

My one negative is that I feel like the ending was rushed. While it made sense - given the namesake and whatnot, I feel like it could've been achieved differently. Throughout the book, we dwell in the past. When rushed into the present, there is a really abrupt change in tone. It felt like the author was like, 'well, now I need to tell you everything you missed in the past ten years and here's how it's changed since then.' I didn't like it.

Overall, a really enjoyable read. Definitely recommend if you're trying to get into more non-fiction.

Rating: **** (4 stars)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: June 1st 2014

Want to read this book? You can get it here:
Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for this e-ARC

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a really interesting read, and like you, don't find myself immersed in all to many non-fiction books (with the exception of history). Definitely understand the cover thing, a book cover can make or break a book!

    Zoe xx